QOTD: Teaching Without Tenure

The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering attracts 140 applicants for every faculty position.

This is a college that does not offer tenure to its faculty! Apparently this feature results in an institution of higher learning in which the professors care more about educating students, as Naomi Riley describes:

Students are also engaged in a constant process of evaluating their education: They are asked for extensive feedback about each course, and alumni are surveyed routinely. When I asked senior Theresa Edmonds how these policies affect her education, she said her professors are very “responsive” to the concerns of students.

Don’t Waste Toddlers’ Attention

As a baby one of my son’s favorite DVDs was LeapFrog’s Letter Factory.  Thanks to many hours of devotion to this show he was able to recite simple phonics at twelve months.  Before he could form words he was able to communicate using the first phoneme of words — for example he would repeat “tuh” for toothbrush, “cuh” for car or cookie.  Not much, but better than traditional pointing and grunting.

At 16 months he could recognize letters in isolation and recite the single phoneme associated with them in the Letter Factory.  That’s right: Thanks to obsessive watching of a single TV program he had mastered basic fundamental of reading before he could articulate single words.

As a two-year-old he graduated to full words, phrases, and then sentences and songs.  The alphabet song is a favorite, but pretty much everything else he learns is silly.  Why do caregivers delight in teaching nonsense words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” when he could be trained to recite real words that may eventually take on real meaning — say, “constitutional federation.”  Nursery rhymes are likewise irritatingly pointless.  I don’t know how many hours he has spent learning and then reciting “Humpty-Dumpty.”

Of course I was also given a steady diet of such drivel as a young child.  It echoes in my head to this day, so it’s not like nursery rhymes are just precognitive exercises that only serve to pass the time until permanent lessons can take root in a young mind.

Toddlers have copious time and attention for rote learning.  So why wait until they are in grade school to begin drumming multiplication tables, historic dates and figures, and other useful items of pure memorization into their little heads?  As an adult I would much rather be able to rattle off the atomic number and series of a given element than some incoherent poem about an imaginary matron named Hubbard.